Leaders have a lot to deal with managing their business and, if that wasn’t enough, they must now manage how a remote, agile workforce affects employee performance. If Covid-19 has taught HR leaders anything, it has taught us how to be more effective in managing discussions about performance.

Tall statement: managing remote employees is tough for some, for others, it is unbelievably scary. Employees who started new jobs during Covid-19 have most likely never met their manager or colleagues face to face. Building relationships with people you have never met is hard; but having open, honest, transparent, comfortable discussions is harder. Employees want a manager they can speak with to share information openly and transparently. Employees need managers who are approachable, have empathy, listen attentively and above all else understand what is important to them.

So, what is important to employees?

  1. Open communication
  2. A manager that knows and understands what the employee’s responsibilities are
  3. The opportunity to continue developing skills and competencies on the job
  4. The opportunity to grow, both personally and professionally
  5. Being paid at fair market value
  6. Understanding company expectations
  7. Being an asset to the company, team, colleagues

What is the role of the Manager?

  1. Listen attentively to what is not being said (read between the lines)
  2. Have ongoing, frequent, transparent discussions with employees.
  3. Ask difficult questions during performance discussions:
    • What do you need to stay at this company or organization?
    • How can I help you succeed?
    • What can the organization do to help you succeed?
    • What are you (the employee) prepared to do to contribute to your success?
    • What training/development do you need to succeed?
    • Do you like the organization, team, people?
  4. Set F.A.S.T. (Frequently discussed, Ambitious, Specific, Transparent) goals and objectives with the employee
  5. Make time for the employee
  6. Be approachable
  7. Know and discuss employee’s areas of development
  8. Understand career goals

Managing employee performance effectively in 2021 and beyond

The outlook for 2021 looks very different from the pre-pandemic years. Prior to 2020, there were often semi-annual performance discussions where employees and their bosses discussed their goals and objectives prior to acceptance and implementation. Discussions about performance happened at times but not consistently. More often, there were performance ratings and performance appraisals. Semi-annual discussions could be awkward because some Managers were not trained on how to provide feedback, or, how to initiate discussions on what needed to be discussed. Gone are the days of telling, we’re now in the days of asking.

Today, employees are involved in setting the goals and objectives they want to achieve. Goals are no longer an annual accomplishment. Goals are now met and established in a shorter period and employees have a smaller window to achieve these goals. We’re now moving away from performance appraisals and performance ratings. Aligning performance management to salary increases is evolving with HR, Finance and the CEO determining the best solutions in providing increases and bonuses.  Also, organizations are being innovative in providing monetary and non-monetary recognition to employees – extra days off, gift cards, saying thank you publicly – to name a few.

We’re in a new world – one where we are continually learning and growing and finding innovative and better ways to meet employee needs, wants, and objectives. At the same time, we’re continuing to meet business goals and objectives of growing revenue and profitability. Today, managers need to have skills to manage performance, speak with their employees, have difficult conversations, and find solutions to problems. Both managers and employees need to be courageous, innovative, safe, and open to all possibilities.

2021 and beyond is new, different, and probably the best thing that will ever happen to all employees – leaders as well. It’s a brave new world. Let’s make the best of it by continuing to build relationships, speak, listen, and share ideas and information openly.

Anne Bloom is a Principal Consultant with The Osborne Group providing Human Resources Consulting in the areas of total rewards, performance management, succession planning and other general HR areas. For further information and discussions, Anne can be reached at [email protected] or by Cell – 647-924-8913.